Tuesday, June 27, 2006

News flash: Rain!

This is a photo of tonight's sunset. Nothing unusual here, except for an hour before there was a big rainstorm in the mountains.

Late this afternoon I saw something I've never seen or heard before in Loreto: Lightning. Thunder.

I had a great vantage point as I was on the portion of Transpeninsular Highway that runs along the valley floor parallel to the mountains. I saw the whole act unfold before me. Clouds stalled at the tips of the Sierras, and as if being denied passage they began to dog pile and turn dark. The sky rumbled and lightning bolts appeared like electrified spears being thrown over the mountains. Soon it looked as though the bottom broke and the cloud mass turned columnar and you knew it was rain. Up there.

Down here we got droplets so sparce they never made contact on the windshield. Someone told me later it poured in Loreto Bay, surely an exaggeration, since I saw no sign of it when arriving home.

How I'd love to see the mountain rain come barreling though the arroyo to the ocean. It happens rarely, but it would be a sight to see.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sweet pickles are here!

Showered, got Allison to school, and roused Robert to go on a morning walk to the Inn and back (four miles.) Took my second shower of the day to wash away the sweat. No need for a hot water heater now, the sun seems to do the trick on the water tank outside. That's what you call passive solar power. Clothes seem to dry on the line in under an hour now. Yeah, it's getting hot.

I bid farewell to the Calgary crew, three sets of neighbors in the Founders' Village that are headed back north. Is everyone from Canada so funny? And vocal? I've never known any Canadians up close until we came to Loreto Bay. I've had to bone up on Canadian geography since I had no idea where Edmonton, or Calgary were. I grew up arrogant in California where geography beyond the Golden State was like, "who cares?" Now, my curiosity is peaked. What's so funny up there? I wanna know.

Three interesting things today: 1) FOX NEWS has been off the air for two days, apparently accused of violating Mexican federal election laws. No details to be found anywhere, so it's intriguing to speculate what naughty thing FOX NEWS said. 2) No water tonight. Faucets are bone dry. Hope there's some tomorrow since we have company coming. 3) The Pescador Supermarket had six jars of sweet pickles in stock. In eight months, no sweet pickles in town till today. I can make tuna salad finally.


Confession on life in Loreto Bay:

When not engaged in some marvelous activity like boating or scuba diving I am bored senseless. There, I have admitted it, reluctantly, because it is so unattractive to complain of boredom. Yet, I am, and lately it's grown more acute. The hot weather is to blame for some of it; I don't feel inclined to do much outside. Having a young child also puts limits on spontaneity; a run to Cabo for a little distraction is out of the question while she is in school. I have no function here but to observe my house get built and teach two men English twice a week. I'm pretty useless.

I fill my time either surfing the internet or reading. Normally, I prefer reading except that lately I find myself dozing off in mid-page. Maybe it's the book I'm reading. It should be fascinating. It's a Harvard economist's study of the effect of economy on a society's moral character; generally, how growth has moral as well as material importance. I've always liked books about the effects of anything on society, especially when that anything turns people bad like in Lord of the Flies bad. Then it's shocking and fascinating. I'm two-thirds into its 500-plus pages, and though I know it's interesting stuff, I keep falling asleep. It just seems to me Professor Friedman takes a lot of pages to argue what is basically a simple thesis: People tend to be grumpy when they don't make any money, and more pleasant when they do. I didn't go to Harvard or anything close, but I get it, really. Zzzzzzz.

It's my fault. I'm reading a three pound "textbook" when I should be taking cues from other pool loungers, digging into what's called, "a good read" as in beach book. I think I was worried this long hiatus in Mexico would atrophy the precious little intelligence I have. What was needed was important books to ward off the decay.

Ha ha ha ha ha. Like I have control over that.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I'm Queen of the World!!!!

Happy birthday to me (on the 22nd)

The day cruise was a present to myself.

What can I say? Life is beautiful.

Friday, June 23, 2006

This guy is really going places!


Where the Hell is Matt?

What's the "hi-guy" for?

Allison lost the other front tooth this week, thus the tight smile. She has collected from the Mexican tooth fairy four times now. Between her money and my small change from teaching English we beat Dad as the breadwinner of the family this year.

In the background is our newly planted courtyard of our casa chica. Except for the clean-up, the house is completed. We close on it July 3 and my furniture arrives on the 5th. Soon, we'll join the other pioneers in the village, braving the dust and noise of the ongoing construction. No spa or pool, or other amenities yet, just homes and gravel and sand. We are going to have to learn to live small. The house is the size of an apartment. Tough enough not to have a garage--I worry more about not having a sink disposal and a trash compactor. Being a green community we will have to separate trash into tiny Barbie-size bins under the sink and then tote it to a community bin. At the rate we consume, I'll be toting trash three or four times daily.

In theory, I like the idea of living green, but isn't there a passive-green option for the lazy? I'm for gray water tanks, solar panels, flipping the lights off when I leave a room, just don't make me sort my trash. I wonder if I could put it in the high-guy thing, the window that food from the hotel can be delivered through, and call room-service for pick up. There's an idea.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hello, somebody

Today I met with Bob Toubman, the V.P. and director for Loreto Bay. I wanted to stress my desire and willingness to help create a community center in the development. From LB's point of view this is not top priority at the moment, but to us living here a venue for activities and education would be so welcome. We need more stuff to do. Our kids need academic enrichment and after-school activities. As more people come, more activities and community services will be needed.

I can envision arts/crafts workshops, educational offerings, guest speakers, book clubs, cards, chess, a lending library, Spanish/English classes, cooking classes, kids programs, recreational programs in tennis, golf, swim, etc. Fun stuff. Attractive stuff. Ambitious stuff.

This project will require a lot of planning and work. Robert thinks I'm nuts to want to take it on, but I think it'd be very rewarding. I know it's one of those things everybody wishes somebody would do.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bye, big brother

Beau left for home today.

But there's always Daddy

Monday, June 19, 2006

Thanks, Mexico

Last night Robert and I took our walk along the boulevard.It was a particularly beautiful night. We saw a shooting star. When we reached the hotel we pulled two chaise loungers to the water's edge and reclined under the stars listening to the Sea of Cortez lap the shore. There's no surf like in the Pacific, it's more like a lakeshore--gentle, watery surges.

On the way home we caught a ride with a hotel security employee in his electric cart. He could only take us to the end of the resort property, which lessened our walk by about 300 yards. Soon after, we flagged down the patrolling policia and hopped on the truckbed with Oscar the police dog. Riding home in this manner, the wind whipping my hair, my legs dangling off the tailgate, I felt like a wild kid who'd snuck out of the house, something I've never done in my life. Thanks, Mexico.

The way it is

Allison has been going through a bad spell. She is crying daily, asking to go home. It is like is really dawned on her that we aren't going home anytime soon. She has grown a lot in the eight months we've been here. She has passed that baby stage and entered a place of greater awareness. I can't pacify her with simple things anymore. She has opinions of her own and the foremost is this: "I don't like it here and I want to go home."

I think she is worn out from the stress of attending a Spanish-speaking school. Every day must be a struggle to try to comprehend the material. And this is finals week. Like anybody else she isn't happy when she can't perform at her best. Lately she's been obsessed with getting her homework right and getting to school on time. Once, when she didn't have her homework done she was made to sit at the front of the class, a humiliation she is loathe to experience again.

I feel for her, but then I try to put it into perspective. She is a loved little girl with every advantage. She is being offered a unique experience that later in life will benefit her. I think I feel guilty because I am so enjoying my life, taking it easy, reveling in the simplicity and slowness, in contrast to her experience of struggle and displacement.

I told her to be tough, that it will only get better; like all challenges in life, the difficulty makes the rewards that much sweeter. My speeches are peppered with the rhetoric of character-building, full of Ben Franklin-like nuggets, while I, myself, dwell in a zen-like state of being, living in the moment with little sense of pressure to perform. I may be tired of competing, but I need to prepare my progeny for the pursuit. It's the American way. Tocqueville, visiting America, noted that ordinary citizens pursue their welfare with feverish ardor. The opportunity to achieve and advance creates a sense of obligation to strive toward that end. I must believe this because it is at the core of my maternal instinct. It's my duty to pass this on to my children.

But me, I had to work my way here to this plateau of what-the-hell-I-deserve-this-time-off. My daughter, on the other hand, has to come up through the ranks. Sorry, kid.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

They're my friends too!

It is getting very warm, in the 90's, but it's true that you do get acclimated to the weather. I don't find it unpleasant at all, especially because there always seems to be a breeze. In our 8 months here we have yet to see any rain though someone said it recently sprinkled for 20 seconds. I guess I missed it.

We do wish we had a boat. The place to be is on the water. Robert keeps pining over it that I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't take off for the states, find one, and pull it all the way down here. Or sail it down. In his state of temporary retirement, his behavior is unpredictable. He's not used to so much free time. He's already stirring things up, considering ways to make a living here. We both like it so much, and feel no desire to return home right away.

The village is moving along quickly. We stroll around every day taking in the progress. Some homeowners are either living here now or here for long visits. We've all started socializing in each other's homes, thrilled to finally enjoy the dreams of dinner on the terrace and and a walk home under the stars. I've suspected for a long time that people today miss this intimacy in living. I have complained mightily about the loneliness and disconnect of living in the suburbs. I want to stroll and say hello to friendly neighbors!

We had our first dinner in a neighbor's home, Drew and Kathy's. I think we were all giddy from the thrill of being among the first to enjoy the dream of Loreto Bay. A couple of nights later I happened to stroll by to catch them entertaining another couple. They were all sitting around the same table on the upper terrace, grilling on the outdoor kitchen, drinking and laughing. I was stung with a sense of jealously. "Hey, they're cheating on me with other friends!" Silly. Well, I was on my way to a pasta dinner with Ariel at her newly finished Encantada. Halfway through our dinner I opened the door for fresh air and heard voices. Robert was next door playing poker with his buddies. I smile remembering this because of the happy feeling it gave me to think how we were all enjoying our lives at that very moment.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sea dogs and puppies

Bet you were wondering what I've been up to. No, I haven't been carried away by bats. My attention has turned to the sea. I earned my scuba diving certificate last week. Robert, Beau, and I took the course which included four open water dives. That I was able to complete the course is remarkable to me since I don't like water all that much and especially not the creepy way people look underwater. But the combination of a gentle instructor and a little family rivalry kept me in the game. That, and the opportunity I'd miss if I bailed. I'm living on the Sea of Cortez, an ocean teeming with marine life, a body of water made famous by John Steinbeck, Jacques Cousteau. How could I miss taking a closer look?

On our way to our first dive at sea we encountered a school of dolphins that began to chase us. Dozens of them surrounded the panga boat, speedily darting through the water like missiles. A few would take the lead swimming directly in front of the boat. They were magnificent. And so immediately likeable. They reminded me of big, playful dogs. Sea dogs. Fetch!

Immediately after they departed we came across a pod of pilot whales and rode with them for awhile. Though not playful like the dolphins, the pilot whales were curious, some coming right up to the boat for a look. We were all so astonished and overcome with marvel. Every one of us shrieked with glee every time a whale emerged to blow. You could hear them breathe!

That was just the first day, Before even getting in the water! I might have been content to stay on top of the water--there was certainly enough wonder there, but we were headed to a protected cove near Puerto Escondido to do what we set out to do: dive. If I quit then I would have missed the experience of seeing what amounts to a parallel universe. There is a whole other world in the sea.

I'll spare you all the enthusiastic enumerations of my first adventure as a neophyte diver, but this one: I held a puffer fish in my hands. He was as cute as a prickly puppy. His forward-placed eyes focused on me in intense concentration as he frantically gulped up water to get bigger and badder. He only got cuter and puffier. I had an overwhelming desire to possess him, to take him home in my BCD pocket as my pet. When I finally let him go his little ballooned body hastened off with inadequate propulsion from two little fins and a tailfin wagging like a docked puppy tail.

Puppies of the sea. I'm hooked.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Holy bat cave!

The Sea of Cortez contains a whole world of marine life. Jacques Cousteau has called it the world's aquarium. I intend to have a closer look, but for now I am preoccupied with animal life on the Baja, in particular, bats. There is a high density of them in Nopolo and people staying in the Loreto Bay village will have to learn to live with them. As creepy as they are they're indispensable as pest control--each consuming over 1000 mosquitoes every evening. I don't know about you, but if I have to choose between furry flying mice and biting insects, the bats win every time.

I assumed they lived in the caves in the mountains near Nopolo, but someone yesterday told me that they are roosting in the abandoned Convention Center just down the road from the village. This I had to see. Beau too. We were too chicken to approach the site at sundown, however. We had visions of walking into some dark orifice at the same time the hungry flock would be pouring out for night feeding. We didn't want any bats in our hair.

We thought we'd explore the building at day. We found a spiral staircase to the second floor that led to a dark room. I peered in and saw (and heard) hundreds of bats gripping the ceiling which was covered in styrofoam. There weren't the thousands I imagined, but I wondered if more were behind the styrofoam in the trusses. I think Beau was expecting thousands too because he hung back at the doorway while I cautiously creeped in further, stepping on piles of bat dung which looks surprisingly like mouse poop. I positioned myself for a few snapshots hoping my camera flash wouldn't startle the bats into a frenzy. They seemed not to notice me, but I wasn't too comfortable standing directly below them and the stench was nasty.

The building is planned for demolition and I wonder if anyone realizes how this will effect the bat population. Where will they go? Maybe to roost in crannies around the stylish village? I'm not a bat lover any more than a vulture or turtle lover, but like I said, the bats serve a very good purpose. I need to find out if anyone in the development is considering the imminent displacement of these creatures.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Call me Maestra

Tonight was my first night teaching English to some of the Mexican department managers of the Inn at Loreto Bay. I didn't have a real idea of what to expect, but I was happy to learn that the two students I had tonight are very familiar with English already. They just want to improve, to be able to communicate better, to not be misunderstood. They hold leadership roles that require a better command of English.

I get to help them do their jobs better and thus run a smoother, more efficient organization. Anything I can teach them about communicating will improve their performance and success at work. I went in tonight not fully understanding their need for me. I left with a profound sense of purpose. Something that comes so easily to me is so needed by others. I had no idea how gratifying that would feel.

I came home to my family brimming with enthusiasm. And look, I said, pulling out my first earned pesos. How about them apples? Of course, any money I earn is special money that gets to be saved (I always assume)and I immediately put it in the soup tureen in the china cabinet.

Truth is, I think I'd do it all for free.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Look out!

We went to dinner last night with the couple that owns and operates the dive shop in Loreto. They are going to instruct Robert, Beau, and me in scuba diving so we can earn our certification. It's no cakewalk: 20 hours of CD instruction, five exams and four dives. Beau will have to cram to get it down before returning home to work. Allison is disappointed because at 6 she is 4 years too young. I'm surprised she'd want to put even one foot in the ocean after the stories we heard this week from Ana about how squid with their hard parrot-like beaks will attack; from our fishing guide, Jose Torres, about how his friend lost a foot to a shark while leisurely dangling his feet over the side of the boat; from Bruce and Susan about their friend who nearly lost a foot to a severe stingray stab (she forgot to shuffle her feet on the beachfloor.)

Speaking of attacks: After dinner we all stopped to see the progress of our casa chica. Beau and I were standing beneath the huge ficus tree on the sidewalk when he suddenly said, "I haven't seen much of any animals here on this trip" He was remembering the desert foxes, the white-faced owls, the cows, goats, and horses that seemed more abundant on his last visit here over Christmas break. Then, in a act of playfulness he grabbed a lower limb of the tree and lifted himself off the ground. We both heard fluttering and when he dropped I saw what looked like a small dark bird grab onto his shoulder. "A bat," I shrieked. Beau spun around shaking it from it's grip on his polo shirt. "It was trying to bite me!" he exclaimed.

I think it was less off an attack and more the case of a startled winged animal looking for another place to perch. When it discovered its new perch was something alive it reacted defensively. Maybe. Or maybe it was a rabid vicious vampire bat out for blood, said Robert, later. Either way, it's Beau's story to tell to others when he gets home. The bat may grow 12 inches and fangs by the time the story gets told to Beau's younger brother back home.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Lucky day for tacos

Hooray! El Rey Taco was open today when Beau and I went to pick up Allison from school. They serve up the very best fish tacos and beef tacos in Loreto, but it's never open when we happen to be in town. The owners don't post their hours; we think they open whenever they feel like it. It's become a game to try to catch them open. We never leave town without passing by to see if it's taco jackpot.

When Mr."El Rey" and his wife do open it's around 9:00 am to 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. They work side by side with no apparent help, at breakneck speed grilling and assembling tacos. El Rey tacos are so delicioso that people can't wait till lunch to eat. They pour into the place the minute he shoves open his aluminum window until the moment he proclaims, "No mas," he's out of food and closes shop. Robert says he earns $1000 (US dollars) every day he operates. I think he has killer days for the reason that his product is so desired yet so unavailable. The man's a genius at creating demand. He creates a superior product at a good value and at a limited supply with a random delivery.

When Beau and I saw that El Rey was open we rushed into action. We raced to the ATM machine praying all the while the tacos wouldn't run out in those 7 minutes. Then I dropped Beau off to order while I picked up Allie at school and raced back to see if he scored. YES!

Robert would be so upset to learn we caught El Rey open without him. It would be cruel not to bring him home a little of our treasure. We did of course.